Saturday, April 19, 2014
"Q" as in Q&A for my nails
No matter how put together I look one glance at my hands can tell the real tale of what kind of day or week I’ve had. Ragged and bitten fingertips might mean a deadline looming. Peeling and glue covered nails may symbolize late nights decopauging a table for a school fundraiser. Chipped polish and torn cuticles could represent snowstorms followed by shoveling followed by kids home indefinitely. My sanity or lack thereof can literally be counted on one hand (or two). I need a manicure!
Surprisingly I never really got the whole manicure thing until I was an adult. In fact I probably didn’t have a professional manicure until I graduated from college. Back then cash was scarce and the cheapie manicure salons you find on every corner today were non-existent. According to my mother if you wanted a good manicure you scheduled an appointment at your local beauty salon where you had a standing appointment with ‘Madge’ (remember those Palmolive commercials?). Considering I wasn’t even allowed to wear colored polish until I was in my early teens you’d think I’d be running to the nearest salon once I could. Instead I wore my nails short, adorned with lots of chunky silver rings. Occasionally I’d polish them myself, usually right before going to bed. No matter how dry you think your nails are before bed you are always WRONG. I woke up with a matted linty mess. I’ve learned the hard way that waiting for your polish to dry is a necessary torture.
When I worked in Manhattan the cheapie salons began to pop up and I subsequently let nice ladies I couldn’t understand paint my nails because it cost less than going out to lunch. It wasn’t until I got engaged that I really began to understand the statement one’s nails could make. Everywhere I went people asked to see the ring and when you flash your rock your finger had better do it justice. Suddenly I needed a manicure every week. Eventually no one asks to see your ring anymore, but I’d become an addict and my hands looked naked without polish enticingly called ‘Need A Vacation’ or ‘Sugar Daddy’. Also, as I began to move up the ladder at work I found myself presenting to clients daily. Hiding chipped fingernails behind storyboards and PowerPoint presentations isn’t easy. Manicures became a necessity.
Once you have a family to look after manicures take on a whole new meaning in your life. Where else do you get to remain still for a whole thirty minutes while someone massages your hands with perfumed lotion and there are no children to contend with? Unless someone brings their child to the nail salon. As long as the kid is not screaming I give those women a pass, as they wouldn’t be there with said child unless they were desperate. I get it.
Motherly duties like giving baths to helping with homework are the nemesis of the perfectly polished nail. To remedy this I was recently wooed by the nice cheapie nail lady to try ‘fake’ nails. “Lasts long, no drying time and looks natural,” she said. Gel. Permanent French. UV light. Whatever the name I consider these the plastic surgery of manicures. My nails looked natural (if one could call ultra white tips natural) yet glossy like pearls at the end of my fingers. And they were almost unbreakable. I especially liked the clicking sound they made when I drummed my fingers. I justified the cost because now my manicure lasted about 3-4 weeks. A new obsession had begun. The process itself was a daunting ritual of filing down my real nails followed by painting them in gunk and cooking them under a small UV light, which often burned like a match being set to my finger beds. I wondered how this could possibly be good for me? For a while I maintained the old adage one must suffer for beauty. After all I loved my pearly white fingertips that always looked good. Eventually the pain and certainty my nails were going to disintegrate got the best of me.
Since then I’ve had to deal with threadbare nails that split down the center at the sound of water. I need to get a manicure just to keep them from breaking more. Is it possible that what was once a luxury has now become a chore? Nah. Even if the polish chips before I make it home from the salon I don’t think thirty minutes of me time will ever seem like a chore.